My Zwift Setup

It can difficult and confusing to figure out how to set yourself up with Zwift. My hope is this will clear some of that up.

Because Zwift has a plethora of configurations it is compatible with on setting up your own pain cave, it can be really hard to figure out how to get things working. It was often confusing for me to nail down details and design a cost-effective setup. As you can see, my pain cave is not that large, but it took time, a fair bit of research and a bit of luck to get the setup to where my wife and I think it’s perfect for us. I hope taking look will give you some ideas about your eventual setup! Ride on!

The Basics

  • Wahoo Kickr Snap smart trainer
  • Wahoo Kickr Headwind smart fan
  • Trek FX 2 Disc fitness bike
  • Schwalbe 700c x 35 indoor trainer tire
  • Front wheel block (included with Kickr)
  • TV/Monitor stand
  • Insignia 27″ HD TV
  • Apple TV HD with Zwift app

The Why

My FX 2 hybrid is classified as a “fitness bike” which is perfect for Zwifting. (My wife has a Trek Verve 2 comfort hybrid.) Because it’s a smart trainer, Zwift can control my Kickr Snap to accurately simulate climbs and descents as well set the resistance for workouts, esp. in ERG mode. To keep from overheating, I picked up the Headwind smart fan which adjusts fan speed automatically based on my speed or heart rate. (WARNING: Overheating can become a real safety issue. For your own safety, always use a fan with Zwift.) I had to get the training tire because both the trainer and my original rear tire were damaging each other! The roller was literally wearing the rubber away like a pencil eraser and the road debris jammed in the tire tread with marring the roller. The rubber compound in the blue training tire fixed both problems. (WARNING: Never ride a training tire outdoors! That’s an accident waiting to happen.) Because I have 50-year-old eyes, I run Zwift on a somewhat older Apple TV connected to a flatscreen. I need the bigness! 🤓

The Quality of Life Stuff

  • Apple Remote case with wrist strap
  • Apple AirPod Pros
  • Phone mount
  • Zwift Companion app on my iPhone and Apple Watch
  • Yoga mat
  • Rock Bros. bike thong
  • Tommaso commuter shoes with SPD cleats
  • Bontrager commuter pedals
  • Specialized BG Grail gloves

The Why

With the Zwift app running on the Apple TV, the remote case keeps the remote attached to my wrist and the AirPods gives me the best in-game sound experience possible. I run the Zwift Companion app on my phone mounted to the handlebars. That app makes interacting with Zwift easier, allows me to message other Zwifters as I ride and connects the trainer, my bike’s cadence sensor and my Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor to Zwift. (Apple TVs have some Bluetooth limitations the Companion app gets us around.) The yoga mat and bike thong just keep things clean and sweat from destroying my bike’s finish or the carpet.

I use gloves with padding in the palm to reduce the sweat and discomfort from holding onto a flat bar for long time. I clip in on Zwift to maximize power and to train for when I use my road bike. The commuter pedals give me the flexibility of having flat pedals for casual riding/stopping safety and clip-in pedals for power. The shoes have mountain bike/gravel bike oriented SPD cleats that work well with the pedals.

The Extra

  • Bontrager Connection aluminum wheel
  • Shimano 11-28 rear cassette
  • Disc brake pad spacer (in my hand)

The Why

I got these items because my wife and I both Zwift on different hybrids. The third wheel and cassette however can be used by both bikes. Finally, braking can seriously damage a wheel-on trainer. That’s why there is no disc brake rotor on that wheel. The brake pad spacer keeps the brake pads from sticking together if one of us accidentally squeezes the brakes.

So there you have it. I hope this post was informative and you have the info you need to get you’re own setup going!

What is ERG Mode?

ERG mode effectively turns your bike attached to a smart trainer into an exercise machine you would use in a gym.

When I was brand new to Zwift and started experimenting with the workouts, I noticed a little setting that was checked called ERG Mode. I left it on not really knowing what it was. If you are like I once was, this post will attempt to explain.

ERG mode effectively turns your bike attached to a smart trainer into an exercise machine you would use in a gym. No changing your gears. No worrying about the terrain in the game. You just pedal and Zwift will have your trainer force you to output the required power target during the workout and, this is key, no matter how fast or slow you pedal or what gear your bike is in.

This is where I screwed up in the past and I’ve seen friends new to Zwift doing the same. During my workouts, I would shift gears and/or pedal faster or slower (adjust cadence) depending on the power target. I’d be struggling to keep consistent. It was a mess. Essentially, I was in a tug-of-war with Zwift and frankly mislead by the on-screen prompts. (With ERG mode on, the game should be prompting people to pedal at a certain cadence, but that’s a discussion for another day.) Once I understood what ERG mode does, I stopped trying to meet the power target and focused solely on keeping my cadence as smooth as possible.

Take a look at the time line below from a Sweet Spot Training session. The SST target is to work at near your Functional Threshold Power. You can see my power output in black and my cadence in blue on the graph. Notice the relatively steady cadence around 90 rpm and yet my power changes for each interval. That’s because Zwift was adjusting my trainer’s resistance to match my cadence and set my power output to the target.

Zwift Ride Timeline
This is a timeline from a Sweet Spot Training workout. Notice the steady cadence.

This is why ERG mode is so cool. You get exactly the workout you expect from Zwift. You’re not shifting gears or trying to find the right cadence at a specific gear to get to the power target. You focus simply on managing your cadence and getting through the suffering! 🤣 Maximum efficiency workout for your precious time!

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